Airman helps spread Christmas joy in Guam’s Merizo village
By Airman 1st Class Christopher Quail, 36th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 08, 2018
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam --
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam – Santa arrived in Merizo Village Dec. 23, not by sleigh, but by a 45-foot response boat filled with gifts for the local children.
Airmen with the 36th Operations Support Squadron at Andersen Air Force Base, along with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Station Apra Harbor; the Merizo Mayor’s office and volunteers came together for the Merizo Angel Tree event to spread joy to the less fortunate.
Local officials provided the names of 140 children along with age and gender to the 36th OSS and Coast Guard Auxiliary. The units then split responsibility of getting gifts for the children and placing the names on Christmas trees as “angels.”
Airman 1st Class Guadalupe Salinas, 36th OSS weather forecaster, volunteered to be the liaison to ensure each child received a gift. He put up a Christmas tree along with a signup sheet containing the 70 names provided and an “angel” to go along with each name. Anyone could sign for a name and purchase a gift as long as the gift was under $20 so that it was fair for each child.
“Giving to those for whom this may be the only gift they may receive this year, brings me such happiness that I can’t even begin to describe,” Salinas said. “I worked hand in hand with the Merizo mayor’s office to receive the names of the children so that we had a count of presents that we needed to buy.”
After service members collected the presents, the Coast Guard loaded the response boat with all gifts the day before the event. The children anxiously awaited the day of the event for Santa to arrive. When Santa arrived along with all the presents, volunteers formed a human chain to hand gifts down the line to be placed under the Christmas tree.
“The kids’ eyes lit up with happiness and they could barely contain their excitement as Santa and volunteers passed down the gifts under the Christmas tree,” said Lt. Col. Rafael Vargas, 36th OSS commander. “This is a tradition that strengthens our bond between the military and its surrounding community. This is our home and we stand together as one.”